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Howard is first HBCU chosen to lead a university research center focusing on military technology

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced a history-making HBCU contract for "Tactical Autonomy" systems.

WASHINGTON — The nation’s first African American Secretary of Defense came to one of the nation’s premier Historically Black Colleges and Universities Monday to announce a historic opportunity for students.

Howard University will now be leading a team of HBCUs, including Bowie State, to create Air Force research, focusing on what the DOD is calling "tactical autonomy." The Air Force explains it as artificial intelligence systems to give jet pilots and maintenance crews up to the second info on complicated flight systems and possible threats.

"They can identify threats to our troops in real time and they can help our technical crews conduct maintenance more safely and they can equip our commanders with the best available information," said Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. “We will make sure every patriotic young coder, mathematician and scientist who wants to serve their country has that chance. We will face that future in a time-tested American way and with the power and purpose of Howard University."

Credit: Deanna Washington
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at Howard University Jan. 23, 2023.

The new partnership includes $90 million, up to $12 million annually, in support to Howard University’s new research team. The Air Force Secretary said it helps right a historical wrong.

“HCBUs graduate 30% of African American STEM professionals and more than a third of African American STEM PhD holders have earned their undergraduate degrees from an HBCU," Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall said. "Prior to today, HCBUs received less than 0.5% of DoD research funding. Clearly the DoD did not do enough to connect with this incredible depth of talent, expertise and potential." 

For its part, Howard officials hope the research center opens numerous doors for its students looking to make a difference in science and math.

"This center has the potential to close that gap and be at the forefront of progressive science and technology efforts," Howard University President Wayne A.I. Frederick said. 

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